28 March 2017

Polkapolooza Craft Beer Tour 2017 Review - Day 3 Heading North with Friends

On the road again with the Polkaroo`s!
When I planned the first Polkapolooza last year, I was really just starting to explore Ontario Craft beer and had no idea what I was doing. Our trip north was, however, quite memorable and I wanted to do it again this year, only a little bigger and with some of our friends who live in up the 400. (Side note : The 400 series highways, for our international friends, are the main roadways connecting the Province of Ontario. The 400 is the main route north to Barrie and beyond.) Our day started with a stop at Timmies and a little consult of the OBN map before we roared off into the early morning with a song in our hearts and craft beer in our sights.
 First up was a great launching point just around the corner from Canada's Wonderland, the largest theme park north of the 49th.
Windows for days

Lake Wilcox Brewing opened up last year and is housed in a huge facility with loads of room to grow. Meeting us as we entered was one of the owners, Ray and he was only too happy to share their story, give us a tour and of course, sample some of their beer. An absolute gem of a brewhouse and taproom, it is perfectly located minutes from the highway for cottage goers and a nice place for mom or dad to hang out while the kids are at play.
Lots of room to expand!
 A new pint glass found its way into my hands along with 6 or 7 beers and we bade farewell with plans to stop in again on our way up north this summer.
Morning flights...doing it right!

Thanks for the new glass and the tour Ray!
Barrie was in our sights and we made our way to our friend's Verena (Sunshinetravelcat on Instagram) and Richard's (fish_trails on IG) house to meet up and combine forces for the rest of our day. These two Beer Saints have become good friends as we got to know each other online and once when we visited north in the fall and we were very happy to accept their invitation to stay the night at their house so we could enjoy all their town had to offer. Thankfully for a tired Polkaroo, Verena drove to our 2nd stop on Day 3, off the beaten path at Muskoka Brewery. Plus, she had packed sandwiches, which were a blessing after a few days of fast food stops.
The return of the Polkaroo!
A favourite of mine for their Winter Survival pack (Polkie Award winner 2016) and of course Twice As Mad Tom Imperial IPA, we made our way here to meet up with our other Barrie pal, Brett (ifindbeerenjoyable on IG). We sampled a few of the latest Kettle releases before Jack came over and offered to give us a tour of the brewery, which we found out was in full production mode.
Huge Production facility running full tilt
   A stop in the enormous fridge yielded a dream of delicious Ontario Craft beer just waiting to head out on the road and I will be honest and say I could have sat in there all day hanging out with the skids of Mad Tom!
Checking out the fridge...so much Muskoka beer!
Excited barely covers it as we made our way to the enormous Muskoka production floor and marvelled at the speed and efficiency of the team hard at work getting your beer to you from up here. Jack proceeded over to the canning line and pulled some of the freshly packaged Legendary Oddity for us to try once we got back to the taproom and we all were transfixed watching the bottling line crank out a metric tonne of Detour, their session IPA that fuels many a party down around my house.
Detour for day.
Past some barrels and a perfect Muskoka photo op, we had to say good bye before we decided to set up camp for the night as the kindness they offered was making it hard to leave. Some gratis beer and swag was a parting gift and we bought a few more beers to say thank you for everything.
Sit a spell and have a beer.
  Just a ways down the road comes the home of one of Ontario's best named beers (Long Dark Voyage to Uranus stout) and a contender for beer of the year on many lists (Twin Pines Double IPA).
Hello old friend.
Gravenhurst's own Sawdust City are hailed by many as one of the best this province has to offer and I would be among those touting them. Putting out great beer seems to be in their DNA and we arrived for a pint and some beer chat in their very cool taproom. My glass was soon graced with that aforementioned amazing double IPA, Twin Pines and Kat's was filled with that ridiculously thick and tasty stout.

Just so damn good!

Our friends had flights and pints and we talked about some of our adventure so far as well as planning for the night ahead. Grabbing some more beer for "research", we once again hit the road back to Barrie and what turned out to be a wonderful evening.
Get into this fridge and stock up.
  We were getting hungry and thirsty, so it seemed logical to head to one of the best for both when in Barrie, Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling.
Some of the best beer and food on the tour.
Recently announced expansion plans to Midland means this brewery will continue to grow and crank out amazing beers at a prodigious rate. Met by the gregarious Brad, he hung out and talked craft beer and made sure our glasses were never empty for long. The food was unreal and it was paired with equally good beer. A new nitro line had been recently installed and I am a sucker for anything on nitro, especially a stout or porter.
Nitro rocking a stout baby!
A few IIPAs and stouts later and we were taken in the back for a tour before we left. The tanks are all named after famous female aviators and I must admit that while I am not a hard liquor kind of drunk, I fell in love with the cool saxophone looking distiller.
Saxophone distiller?
When we received our dinner bills, the beer had been removed and we were left speechless at such generosity. It made everyone feel like a million bucks and we again raided the bottle shop for some beers to purchase as a sign of our gratitude. A definite must stop if you are in town, Brad is a beer saint par excellence.
Brad is simply the best! Cheers my friend!

  It was time for pit stop back at the home of our friends and then a quick jaunt over to the downtown location of the Flying Monkey's Craft Brewery. Walking into the colourful bar room, we were met by the final member (we thought) of our Barrie crew, the amazing Danielle (fionaface on IG). The talk turned to beer and travel as our friends Brett and Danielle were soon to leave on a much needed trip to the islands and we all reminisced about trips south when the snow is flying here in Canada. My pint was an easy choice but a little hard to order. Juicy Ass IPA was delicious and I hope the bartender knew I respected him as a person first.

A beauty IPA from FM!
 Before we knew it, the clock was approaching 10 p.m and I realised we could not make it across town in time to meet up with another internet friend waiting for us at the third Barrie brewery, Redline Brewhouse (we would go there in the morning.
I messaged Hago (Great White Garage on YouTube) and told him we would have to meet up another time before a thought struck me. I asked Verena and Rich if they minded some company when we got back to their place and they were happy to accommodate my somewhat strange request. I asked Hago if he'd like to join us for a little beer and chat and to his credit, he was right on with that. We arrived back at the house and minutes later so did our surprise guest, armed with beauty beer from Redline. 
The one and only Hago!

I had brought my bottle of Samuel Adams Utopia for everyone to try and we sipped and savoured that big boozy treat before I cracked open three great IPA's from Ontario and one from Quebec for all to share and talk about.
A fun treat made to share with friends.
We laughed and shared stories long into the night and when it was finally time to say goodbye, I knew that not only had I made a new friend, but that Verena, Rich and Hago had started one of their own. It was pretty amazing to share beer all day with people and finish it with a new friend who was the perfect way to cap an outstanding day. I went to bed with a smile and a chuckle when I thought of how dark my life used to be. I didn't want to meet people or go anywhere and now I was driving all over the province, making new friends and cementing plans for future adventures that I know will be even better because of the good people I have come to know.
  Day 4 was looming with another ambitious route that would take us home the long way and into a night of art and beer...but that is a tale for yet another day.

Make your next beer run a little more epic
Break your routine and Explore everything Ontario Craft Beer has to offer.
You will be happy you did.


1 comment:

  1. Great post as always sir! What a great day! Can't wait to do it again!